Start to finish instructions on rubbing ribs all the way through the smoking and resting process.
First off, what type of pork ribs should you buy? Our 2 recommended options are baby back ribs or St. Louis Style Ribs. You can't go wrong with either of them and it really comes down to personal preference and flavor. Baby back ribs will be a smaller rib and leaner, while St. Louis Style Ribs are larger and will have more fat and a different flavor profile.
If you have never smoked ribs before, I encourage you to buy a rack of baby back ribs and a rack of St. Louis Style and cook them the same - this will help you determine which one's you like better.
As a rule of thumb, 1/2 a rack of ribs per person if you are doing these as a full meal. The great thing about ribs is they reheat well in the oven, so you can always have too much!
There is a great debate if you should remove the membrane or not. Many BBQ restaurants don't remove the membrane because it's time intensive. My personal preference is to remove the membrane.
Why remove the membrane? The main reason is because that side of the rib won't absorb as much smoke as it could. It's also a barrier on the rub getting to the back side of the meat.
REMOVING THE MEMBRANE:
- Flip the ribs over and start at one end - you should see a thin layer of white tissue. You need to get under that tissue at one end to start pulling it off. Get a kitchen knife and insert it between the layer of meat and the tissue. With the other hand, grab the tissue. Once you get a big piece going, it will pull right off. But some ribs are stubborn and it can be a frustrating process. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Prep the ribs using the Flaming Rooster Rib Rub method (xxxxxxx). Even if you aren't using that rub, you can use that method applying the rub of your choice. If you are doing multiple racks of ribs you can apply different rubs.
Cover the ribs in cellophane and store in the refrigerator for 8 - 12 hours. If you don't have the time, 1 hour will do the trick, but the longer the better.
TYPE OF WOOD: We prefer Hickory. Oak and Mesquite wood are also great options. If you want to have some fun, do a combo of Mesquite and Oak.
SMOKING TEMPERATURE: You want to smoke the ribs at 225 degrees
HOW LONG SO SMOKE THE RIBS: As a rule of thumb, at 225 degree grill temperature, Baby Back ribs should take 3 - 5 hours and St. Louis Ribs will take 5 - 7 hours. This is a general rule and can take longer or shorter based on outside conditions, grill temperature fluctuations and thickness of the ribs.
WHEN ARE THEY DONE: There are many 'rib tests' you can do, but the easy answer is temperature. Technically, pork is cooked at 145 degrees, but if you take them off at 145 you will have chewy ribs. We always smoke them until they reach an internal temperature of 195 degrees and a max of 203 degrees. Getting the ribs over 195 is critical on tenderness and melting the fat, giving them great flavor.
I'll caveat this with the fact I prefer DRY RIBS, which means no sauce - simply rub and smoke. However, I know many people enjoy sauce or 'wet ribs', so I'll include this optional part in as well.
If you are doing 3 racks or more of ribs, you should invest in a good rib rack that fits in your smoker or ceramic cooker.
Once your smoker or ceramic cooker is smoking well at 225 degrees, remove the ribs from the refrigerator and place on the smoker.
Once on the smoker, smoke these ribs for 3 hours at 225.
TRICK: If you are using ceramic cooker, I like to get a small foil pan that will fit between your place setter and your grill (so under your grill). Put some Apple Cider in that tin foil with some water (1/2 Apple Cider and 1/2 water). This helps with moisture and flavor.
After 3 hours, take 2 - 3 tablespoons of butter and melt it in the microwave. With a brush, brush butter on both sides of the ribs.
Now lightly sprinkle brown sugar on both sides of the ribs, patting the brown sugar into the butter.
Take foil OR butcher paper and wrap the ribs individually.
With the smoker still at 225 degrees, put the wrapped ribs back on the smoker.
For Baby Back Ribs, keep them wrapped for 1 hour on the smoker.
For St. Louis Ribs, keep them wrapped for 2 hours on the smoker.
You should have your meat probe in still - I typically remove them from the this wrapped process when they are 190 degrees.
After they are wrapped and 190 degrees, remove them from the smoker and unwrap them.
By this time all the smoke flavor is complete, so don't worry about keeping smoke at this point, just keep the temperature at 225 degrees.
If you prefer 'WET RIBS', at this point, baste your ribs with your favorite BBQ Sauce and return them to the grill undercover. Continue to baste every 30 minutes until your internal temperature reaches 195 - 203 degrees.
If you prefer 'DRY RIBS', at this point, return the unwrapped ribs to the smoker. Continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 195 - 203 degrees. This last hour and process will add nice crisp bark to the ribs.
Resting the ribs is a critical part to the process that is often overlooking. Why is resting so important? If you take the ribs right off the smoker, that pork has been gradually increasing in temperature for 5+ hours. The temperature and juices need time to settle. During the resting process all the juices (especially from that rendered fat) are staying inside that ribs, which will amplify the flavor.
If you are serving them right after taking it off the smoker, put them on a baking pan and leave it uncovered on the counter for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, cut and serve - they will still be plenty hot!
If you have some time (an hour or more) before you need to serve them: Wrap them in foil (you can stack them at this point) and put them in a cooler. They will stay hot for many hours. Once you are ready to serve the ribs, take them out, unwrap them and let it rest uncovered for 15 minutes.
Serving Size dishes
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.